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Fringe Artist Spotlight: Nicolas Reveles

Nicolas Reveles composer of "Aftermath," an opera, sits by a piano, May 18, 2022.
Nicholas McVicker
Nicolas Reveles composed the opera "Aftermath" for his San Diego International Fringe debut. May 18, 2022

Pianist and composer Nicolas Reveles created the chamber opera "Aftermath" during the pandemic. This week he premieres it at San Diego International Fringe Festival.

Reveles has been hooked on horror since the age of eight.

"My mother sat myself and my brother in front of the television set and we watched the first broadcast of James Whale's 'Frankenstein' on television," Reveles recalled. "And from then on, I was hooked on horror. I don't know what it is but there's something about the darkness and about being scared and about telling a story that might frighten people, even just a little bit, that I've always enjoyed."

"Aftermath" was originally conceived as a horror opera since the pandemic provided some real-world horror as inspiration.

"I originally intended it to be a piece that expressed my own experience of the pandemic," Reveles said. "I started it as a horror story because I love the horror genre and that's kind of where I was going. But then the characters took over and became so much more interesting to me than the background or anything horror-filled."

Top SD Fringe Pick Preview: "Aftermath"

The background of the story remains the same with the two characters, Ruth and Evan, in the midst of more than just a pandemic.

"It's a vignette about two characters who confront each other across a sliding glass door on the patio of a contemporary, upscale home in Mission Beach during the second or third year of a pandemic lockdown and the aftermath of a tactical nuclear attack on a military base in the area," Reveles explained. "I really wanted these characters to be locked down and to be completely isolated and have to make decisions within that social context. I wanted to see how they would react if what we were experiencing during the lockdown ourselves was multiplied by about a hundred. It's a simmering conversation between these two characters. Ruth, who is well-off, is a very successful self-help book writer, a Yogi, living in grandeur on this beachfront property, and who probably has two years worth of food and goods and water in her garage, and this street kid who is trying to eke out some kind of subsistence with their gang, breaking into grocery stores and liquor stores and restaurants, trying to find what they can — canned goods, to eat and to stay alive. And these characters, coming from two completely different social strata, how will they deal with this together?"

In addition to horror, Reveles' other great love is opera and if you have ever attended San Diego Opera then you likely were enlightened by Reveles' introductory talks before performances. The idea of creating this story as an opera seemed an obvious choice to him.

"I'm a great believer that you can approach anything through opera," Reveles stated. "I absolutely believe in the genre. I think when you sing things, the story, the drama is more heightened. It becomes more important, it becomes bigger. And I like that, the bigness of that — even in chamber opera as this is, and even in a chamber space as the space where we'll be performing at. The Template in Ocean Beach is small, but I like that the emotions have the space to explode and get bigger. "

"Aftermath" is a part of Fringe's B.Y.O.V. or Bring Your Own Venue programming. That means that it is part of the official Fringe slate of shows but that it is not performed at one of the official venues. The opera is being produced by Bodhi Tree Concerts, which presented the brilliant opera "Eight Songs for a Mad King" at Fringe in 2017.

"We decided we wanted to be in control of our own venue so we wouldn't have other groups coming in, and we'd have to break down and build back up after they use the venue," Reveles explained. "So we're at The Template, which is a coffee house in Ocean Beach and is absolutely the perfect venue for this piece because the piece does indeed happen in San Diego, on Mission Beach. We couldn't find a venue in Mission Beach, but we found this one and Ocean Beach is close enough and you can still smell the salt air, and it still has the ambience that we were looking for, being close to the ocean and being really emblematic of San Diego life in the San Diego neighborhood."

Aftermath.jpeg
Bodhi Tree Concerts
Nicolas Reveles' "Aftermath" is a chamber opera debuting at San Diego International Fringe Festival.

The opera also features a nonbinary character in Evan.

"I'm really excited that the singer singing the role of Evan is Lucia Leon, who is a trans woman singing tenor," Reveles said. "Opera audiences would most often think that a tenor is always a male. Not so. Opera audiences, however, are very familiar with the gender bending and sex exchange of roles that has happened since opera began. Male singers singing female roles and vice versa. And it's actually more common that mezzo-sopranos will sing a trouser roll or a pants role, the role of a young man or a boy. But Lucia's tenor voice is so beautiful and so perfect also for this nonbinary character."

"Aftermath" will have three Fringe performances on June 10, 11 and 12 at The Template in Ocean Beach.